"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Legal | A Belgian court has rejected a five-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have the 1946 edition of Herge’s Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist depictions. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who launched the campaign in 2007 to ban the book, plans to appeal. [The Guardian]
Publishing| John Rood, DC’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, discusses the results of the New 52 readership survey, noting right of the bat that it’s “not indicative of the actual system wide performance,” which makes you wonder what it’s good for. He has some interesting things to say about bringing back lapsed readers and the demographics of DC readers in general, though. [Publishers Weekly]
One of the key figures in modern comics is Chris Claremont. After the epic period of creativity that came out of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, Claremont emerged as one of the preeminent storytellers in the Bronze Age. Claremont became a defining voice for modern superhero comics through his work on Uncanny X-Men and related titles, and although he didn’t create the concept, he’s the one who made it work–and made it flourish.
After doing a number of peripheral X-Men titles and other work in recent years, the writer stepped away from mutants–and comics at large. The final issues of X-Men Forever 2, New Mutants Forever and Chaos War: X-Men came out in early 2011 but were written by the New York-based writer in late 2010. For over a year now, Chris Claremont hasn’t written a single page of comics script.
Although he’s turned his focus to prose novels for the time being, Claremont remains in tune with developments in the comic industry that he worked in for so many years. In a far-ranging discussion with the London-born writer, we talked about the modern comics movie blockbuster, digital comics, the seduction of work-for-hire and news about his own creator-owned comics.
Chris Arrant: 2011 was a different kind of year for you and for fans of your work, Chris. What are you planning for 2012?
Chris Claremont: Well, I’ve got a prose novel making the rounds to potential publishers, and a short story in Simon & Schuster’s Under The Moons of Mars: New Adventures of Barsoom anthology. I’m working on another novel that’ll hopefully be in a position to start sharing with publishers soon as well. This year’s the first time I’ve been able to do things that are all totally mine and all totally different.
Chris Arrant: Are these sequels to your Willow novels or perhaps the First Flight novels you did a few years back?
Chris Claremont: No, the Willow books are George Lucas’; the fate of that is up to him. And these aren’t connected to First Flight either. They’re all in different genres with different emphasis. The novel making the rounds now is a young-adult adventure, and the novel on my desk right now that I’m stitching together for my agent is much more of a mystery/suspense.
Chris Arrant: Even if you’re working outside of comics currently, you’ll always be associated with the medium. Given that you have a little distance from the day-to-day of working in comics, what are your thoughts about the comics industry and medium as a whole?
Chris Claremont: This is the first time in 40 years that I haven’t written a line of comics work in a year. That is part of what’s enabled me to do a lot more prose. It’s a totally different experience, and I’m getting used to being on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out.
Creators | Longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont is donating his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection includes materials for all of his major writing projects over the past 40 years, notebooks with story ideas, drafts of short stories, plays, novels and comic books, and materials from his early training in the theater and his career as an actor. “We hope this is the first of more comics papers to come to the University,” said Karen Green, Columbia University’s ancient/medieval studies librarian and graphic novel librarian. “We want it to be a magnet for these kinds of archives in New York City, where the comics medium was born.” [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Michael Cavna talks to two comics creators with very different takes on Occupy Wall Street, sequential journalist Susie Cagle, who was arrested as part of the Occupy Oakland protests, and conservative editorial cartoonist Nate Beeler, who walks past the Occupy D.C. site every day and regards it as “quaint,” smelly, and out of step with the rest of the country.” [Comic Riffs]
Although Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men, he’s the one that defined them from 1974 to 1991, leaving a lasting impact on the characters and influencing future writers who worked on the franchise. And in a new documentary called Comics In Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men, the documentary filmmakers behind the recent Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis films take on the legendary scribe’s impact on Marvel’s mutants. And to get it made, they need your help.
Using the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the documentary producers Sequart Research & Literary Organization and Respect Films are asking for $3,500 in fan support to make the film happen. Director Patrick Meaney spoke with Claremont as well as many of his chief collaborators such as Art Adams to get the inside-baseball perspective on the the writer and his definitive work.
If the funding is met and the film does well, the producers hope this will be the first in a series of Comics In Focus documentaries looking at the major moments in comics history.
So far over $400 of the $3,500 has been raised with 28 days to go, with excellent prizes for those that donate $10 or more.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.
If I had $15, my first pick off the shelf would be Vengeance #1 (Marvel, $3.99); I love Joe Casey, and especially when he’s given a long leash and room to play in a big universe. Seeing Nick Dragotta drawing this is an added bonus. Next up would be comics’ dueling summer blockbusters, Flashpoint #3 (DC, $3.99) and Fear Itself #4 (Marvel, $3.99). After that, I’d get the excellent Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance #2 (DC, $2.99); when Azzarello is on the ball he’s great to read, and this seems to be that.
Retailing | A federal bankruptcy judge has granted Borders Group permission to loosen the terms of its $505-million bankruptcy loan, giving the bookseller more time to line up a buyer and avoid the immediate liquidation of 40 more outlets. The book chain, which has closed 237 of its 642 stores, will file a proposal on July 1 to sell itself at a court-approved auction to a guaranteed buyer — most likely, the Los Angeles-based Gores Group. The private-equity firm has a plan that would save about 250 of the remaining Borders locations by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” similar to the Apple Store chain. [Bloomberg]
Retailing | Bud Plant, one of the initial direct-market distributors who, at one time, operated the largest chain of comic stores in the United States, has announced his retirement. In a letter to his mailing list, Plant said he is looking to find a buyer for Bud’s Art Books, his mail-order/online retail business. [The Comics Reporter]
Retailing | Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire, has put out the call for area residents to participate in a photo shoot for retailer-specific variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #666: “This is not the first time Rochester has appeared on the cover of a comic book — the organizations also organized a photo shoot of Main Street that was featured on the cover of a Godzilla comic, with the city about to be crushed by the creature. […] According to Jetpack Comics owner Ralph DiBernardo, after seeing how well the Godzilla comic sold, Marvel Comics wanted to capitalize on that success and suggested the city be featured again.” [Foster’s Daily Democrat]
Publishing | Despite the debut of DC Comics’ Flashpoint and the release of the second issue of Marvel’s Fear Itself — big summer events for both publishers — no comic sold more than 100,000 copies in the direct market in May. Fear Itself #2 led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of Top 300 comics with an estimated 96,318 copies, a decline of some 32,000 copies from its first issue. But it’s the debut of Flashpoint in the No. 2 slot, with an estimated 86,981 copies, that ICv2 says “has to be considered disappointing.” However, the retail news and analysis website is quick to point out that several stores have indicated they sold out of their initial orders of the book, suggesting it may have been under-ordered by event-wary retailers. ICv2 also notes a 17.3 percent drop in the Top 300 comics before explaining the situation isn’t as grim as that figure may suggest. However, it cautions, the same can’t be said for the graphic novel category, which was down just 6.2 percent from May 2010 — a month in which no title sold more than 5,000 copies. John Jackson Miller has further analysis. [ICv2.com]
Creators | In a piece titled “Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here,” Neal Kirby pays tribute to his father, the late Jack Kirby, in the process exposing some of the bitterness over the way the comics legend has been credited in recent movie adaptations: “If [you’re] unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent Thor release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother. Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing. It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Letters of Note, a blog that posts letters related to history and pop culture, shares a letter from John Byrne to Chris Claremont on the creation of Kitty Pryde. In the letter, which is now owned by Jonathan Mueller, Byrne provides not only an illustration but powers, potential codenames (including Sprite and Ariel, both of which were eventually used, and Kittyhawk, which wasn’t) and the suggestion that she be on a second team of “X-Men in training.”
A Wolverine movie sequel based on the 1982 miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller reportedly will begin production in January.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Roger Friedman confirms earlier reports that the follow-up to 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be a tale of martial arts and romance set in Japan.
The script is by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie). No director has been signed.
Claremont and Miller’s four-issue series — Wolverine’s first solo comic — is a story of love, honor and revenge, with Logan battling ninjas and the politics of the criminal underworld for the heart of his ex-lover, the daughter of a Japanese crime lord. Just to make life more complicated, as assassin hired to kill Logan ends up falling for him. Star Hugh Jackman has called the miniseries his favorite Wolverine story.
The $150-million X-Men Origins: Wolverine, from 20th Century Fox, grossed $373 million worldwide.
I am fond of saying that the strength of DC’s superhero line comes from its diversity. Ideally, the line would maintain a good mix of traditional and progressive characters, styles, and storytelling approaches. It would be a place where each such approach could carve out its own spot and set its own “local rules”: things are a lot less grim around the Marvel Family, for instance. Perhaps the best example of this heterogeneity was Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. I’m not talking about the fully-assimilated New Gods of today, or even the Grant Morrison-ized New Gods of Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis. No, the pure Kirby of the early ’70s (and maybe even The Hunger Dogs) was its own animal, different enough that DC’s high sheriffs ordered Superman’s and Jimmy Olsen’s heads redrawn just so the squares wouldn’t totally freak out.
Now, most of the time these work out pretty well, both in terms of artistic merit and lasting contributions to DC’s stable.
And then there was Sovereign Seven….